District 32B State Rep. Bob Barrett, who represents much of Chisago County, including North Branch, stopped by the NBAPS School Board meeting Thursday to recap the legislative session and field questions from the board.
He said the economy has been growing, which means expanding revenue sources for K-12 education.
Even though there might be more money in the pot for education next session, Barrett said that doesn’t mean the money is being distributed equitably.
“There are some differences of opinion on that,” Barrett said. “We still have a need to have fair funding throughout the state. It’s still an issue. We want to make sure every child in the state has an equal opportunity to have a good education.”
He also said special education funding in areas like North Branch, where the district offers resources to special education students up to the age of 21, needs to be addressed.
He said the district might still be working with those students after they graduate, but if they receive their diplomas, the district doesn’t get money from the state for any of the programming it offers to those students.
“That’s not a good situation,” he said, noting that he’s heard some Minneapolis schools are having the same issue, so there “might be a ray of hope” next session for additional funding from the state to address the problem.
School Board Member Tim MacMillan asked Barrett what he sees as the top legislative issues in regard to education next session.
He said one is the achievement gap.
“Some of the language in the education omnibus bill was meant to address that,” he said.
“Kids of color, people of color and poor students can increase their level of proficiency. We need to make sure we reduce that gap. It’s pretty sad that year after year after year kids that are on the bottom of the economic scale continue to do poorly. That should be alarming to everyone.”
Barrett also said making education funding more equitable should still be a focus of the Legislature.
Superintendent Deb Henton asked Barrett if there would be any money available for mid-sized districts’ capital needs.
He said needs for larger school districts’ facilities was addressed in a bill this year, but mid-sized districts, like North Branch, were left out.
“We need something that would include mid-sized districts, every district in the state,” Barrett said. “Your needs for capital improvement are not based necessarily on your population. They’re based on the age of the building. I am interested in that. I did see that when it happened this year, and I questioned why mid-sized districts weren’t included.”